Gov. Brian Kemp made going after criminal gangs and human traffickers key planks in his 2018 campaign platform, and he made initial forays in those areas during his first year in office.
With the General Assembly kicking off its 2020 session on Monday, the second-year governor is looking to take the next step on those issues as well as following up on his commitment to improve foster care in Georgia.
Much of what Kemp wants to do in the public safety and foster care arenas requires money, which is in short supply as state tax revenues continue running far below expectations.
But in an exclusive interview with Capitol Beat News Service, the governor said he will make fully funding the gang task force he formed last year under the Georgia Bureau of Investigation a budget priority.
“We got it ramped up last year, and they’ve done a lot of good work,” Kemp said. “(But) they’ve got to have some more resources. We knew that when we set it up. We wanted to phase it in.”
Kemp said he also will push legislation this year aimed at giving prosecutors more enforcement tools to target gangs. To help with that effort, a state database tracking gangs soon will be available, he said.
Kemp credited his wife, Georgia first lady Marty Kemp, for taking an active role in the fight against human trafficking. He issued an executive order last February creating a task force of public and law enforcement officials, for-profit and nonprofit organizations, health care executives and subject matter experts to be headed by the first lady.
“She’s helped raise awareness, helping people get trained and know the signs when they see a potential victim,” he said. “But there’s more that needs to be done to get them help.”
Kemp said he plans to introduce legislation this year to “put more teeth” in state laws governing human trafficking.
Kemp said he committed himself to reforming adoption and foster care in Georgia long before the General Assembly passed a strict anti-abortion bill last year, legislation he supported that would create additional need for alternatives to abortion if it passes court muster and becomes law.
“We’ve got to make it easier for people to adopt foster children,” he said. “We’ve got to make it less expensive … get rid of some of the red tape and bureaucracy,” he said.
Kemp’s 2020 agenda is expected to include legislation increasing incentives the state offers Georgia families to adopt foster children.